The purpose of the Illegal Migration Bill is “to prevent and deter unlawful migration, and in particular migration by unsafe and illegal routes, by requiring the removal from the UK” of those who enter in breach of immigration control. The bill would create a new duty on the home secretary to arrange for the removal, as soon as “reasonably practicable”, of certain individuals (as defined in clause 2 of the bill). The bill outlines some exceptions to this duty to remove. The bill includes the power to remove unaccompanied children and details specific circumstances in which this power could be used.

Those meeting the conditions of clause 2 would have any asylum or human rights claim they make declared as inadmissible. The bill includes new powers to detain individuals subject to clause 2 and removes existing statutory time limits on detention of pregnant women and families with children. The bill provides the secretary of state with greater powers to decide the place of detention. It would also give the Home Office powers to provide accommodation and support to unaccompanied children.

The bill would disapply some modern-day slavery protections, such as the right to a recovery period, from potential victims of trafficking who are subject to clause 2. The bill includes provision for a cap on those entering the country from a safe and legal route. It would permanently ban those who are subject to clause 2 from gaining immigration status or citizenship in the future, subject to some exceptions. The bill specifies procedures and timescales for challenging the removal duty and defines suspensive claims which can delay removal.

Clause 1 of the bill would exempt the bill from section 3 of the Human Rights Act 1998. The government has stated that it is unable to make a statement of the bill’s compatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights but wishes Parliament to proceed with the bill. The bill’s second reading is scheduled to take place in the House of Lords on 10 May 2023.

The bill has been contentious. Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has described the bill as a “government gimmick” and a “con”. The SNP’s Alison Thewliss has condemned the bill as “an abhorrent dog whistle”. Section 5 outlines some reaction the bill has received externally.

Immigration is a reserved matter, therefore most of the bill’s provisions apply across all four parts of the UK.

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